• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

ONE WEEK TO DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!

A generous CounterPuncher has offered a $25,000 matching grant. So for this week only, whatever you can donate will be doubled up to $25,000! If you have the means, please donate! If you already have done so, thank you for your support. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Capitalist Fluctuation and the Partisan Presidential Praise and Blame Game

Photo by SPACES Gallery | CC BY 2.0

Capitalism moves through long waves and shorter-term cycles of growth and stagnation, boom and bust, rising and falling asset values, mounting and dropping profit rates, job creation and job elimination, increasing and declining investment. It always has, and it always will for as long as it exists.

The operative forces behind these fluctuations are numerous and intertwined: the supply and price of raw materials, energy, food, and labor power; changes in technology; shifting supplies and costs of capital; currency developments; managerial practices; changing forms of business organization; investment strategies; climate and other environmental factors; trade patterns, changes in global geography and state systems; shifting patterns of domestic, regional, and international conflict and cooperation.

Under the capitalist system, there’s no central government planning authority responsible for the ebbs and flows of economic life. The actions, practices, preferences and pronouncement of politicians and policymakers are naturally part of the total context or simultaneous equations systems that shape the nature and rhythm of economic cycles and waves.  But even if we call it (as we probably should since at the least Great Depression) state capitalism, the U.S. profits system is not a government-ruled command structure directed by any single state authority – not even that of the chief executive of the world capitalist system’s most powerful state, the United States.

Humorously and ironically enough, however, partisan political and media operatives in the militantly capitalist/state-capitalist US often speak and write as if they childishly think the U.S. economy is for the most part planned, coordinated, and otherwise administered out of the White House. If capitalism is in one of its perpetually recurrent downward cycles, plagued by slow growth and high unemployment, the one of the two major and capitalist U.S. political organizations that is not in presidential power blames the nation’s economic woes on the sitting chief executive, as if he were the hands-on commander-in-chief of capitalism. During such periods, the POTUS and his party can be counted on to report real or allegedly hidden signs of economic success while blaming economic problems on external forces and factors, including the “mess” they “inherited” (often from a president of the other capitalist party) and the “obstructionism” of the other party and its agents and allies.

When U.S. capitalism is (or seems to be) in an expansionary upswing, creating jobs, the sitting president and his or her party take credit for the current state of the business cycle – as if the national economy was run out of the White House.  That’s going on right now with Donald Trump and the current relatively low (by 21st century standards) official U.S. unemployment rate and historically high U.S. stock market. (Trump will take credit for any bit of good media news, including even the continuing strong safety record of American air travel, so there’s nothing remotely surprising about him claiming to be responsible for high stock values and low joblessness, of course.) The White House and the Republican Party would like U.S. citizens to believe that the current monumentally moronic, narcissistic, childish, and dysfunctional, semi-literate low attention-span and Twitter- and FOX News-addicted U.S. president (who couldn’t even read a balance sheet during his years as a real estate mogul) is somehow responsible for the current U.S economic upswing.

The Democrats, by contrast, have less than usual to say about the economy right now.  U.S. capitalism’s momentarily and outwardly upward trends don’t fit the partisan logic for the Democrats.  This is for the simple reason that those trends coincide with the occupation of the Oval Office by someone affiliated with the other corporate party. The Democrats right now are all about Russia, Russia, Russia (Russia’s alleged significant intervention in the United States’ supposedly democratic electoral process), the DACA “dreamers” (an issue of legitimate liberal and progressive concern), and indications (all too real, even by the testimony of his own close associates) of Trump’s dangerous unfitness for the nation’s nominal top job (an unfitness that has not stopped the Inauthentic Opposition Party’s Congressional representatives from joining their Republican colleagues in granting the Insane Clown President vast new military outlays and surveillance authorities).

The Democrats and their media allies’ comparative silence on the economy makes sense given the assumption that current economic circumstances are positive and the pervasiveness of the media-politics narrative that attributes a good economy to sound presidential management. There’s much to worry about beneath the recent and ongoing economic expansion, of course:

+ The wildly excessive over-valuation of the stock market, a classic harbinger of a coming bubble burst, likely to be speeded and encouraged by Trump’s roll back of financial regulation.

+ The persistently low wages and weak benefits still being granted to U.S. workers.

+ The savagely unequal New Gilded Age concentration of wealth and income in ever fewer corporate and financial hands, exacerbated by the recent arch-regressive Trump-GOP tax “reform.”

All of this and more is likely to spark and a new downturn.  When it does, the Democrats will rediscover the economy as a useful top issue and will be sure to blame economic reversals on the “fucking moron” (to use Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s colorful description of his mentally challenged boss) in the White House.

If the arch-corporatist Hillary Clinton were in the White House today (she would be but for simply incredible mistakes on her campaign’s part), the roles would be flipped. Her White House and the Democrats would be taking credit for the capitalist business cycle’s currently “strong economy” while the Republicans focused their partisan hatred of the “liberal” and even (absurdly enough) “left-wing” White House on other matters (with an endless investigation into her emails playing the same role for the GOP that Russiagate is playing now for the Democrats) and waited for the next capitalist downturn to blame the now “bad” economy on “Crooked Hillary.”

That’s how the binary partisan political game works in accord with an endless dance between the capitalist business cycle and the more precisely time-staggered, Constitutionally mandated U.S. election cycle.

Meanwhile, beyond the jointly held pretense that their sitting presidents command the U.S. economy when capitalism can be credibly sold to the public as in expansion mode, both the two reigning U.S. capitalist political parties also share the environmentally lethal and inequality-obscuring religion of economic growth.  The biggest issue of our or any time is capitalogenic climate change, currently on pace for 500 carbon parts per million and hence for the collapse of Earth’s life support systems by 2050 if not sooner. The Greenhouse Gassing-to-death of life on the planet – a crime that would make even the Nazis look like small time thugs by comparison – marches on, carrying to all-but-certain doom with barely more than a hint of serious attention from a reigning corporate and commercial media dedicated to the exterministic commodification of everything in the holy name of growth. Environmentalists try to be heard off-stage, reminding those who will listen that “there’s no jobs on a dead planet” but also (the smarter ones at least) reminding people that a comprehensive conversion from fossil fuels to renewable energy will be a great and good job creation program.

More articles by:

Paul Street’s latest book is They Rule: The 1% v. Democracy (Paradigm, 2014)

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
October 16, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
How Turkey’s Invasion of Syria Backfired on Erdogan
Chitrangada Choudhury – Aniket Aga
How Cotton Became a Headache in the Age of Climate Chaos
Jack Rasmus
US-China Mini-Trade Deal: Trump Takes the Money and Runs
Michael Welton
Communist Dictatorship in Our Midst
Robert Hunziker
Extinction Rebellion Sweeps the World
Peter A. Coclanis
Donald Trump as Artist
Chris Floyd
Byzantium Now: Time-Warping From Justinian to Trump
Steve Klinger
In For a Dime, in For a Dollar
Gary Leupp
The Maria Ramirez Story
Kim C. Domenico
It Serves Us Right To Suffer: Breaking Down Neoliberal Complacency
Kiley Blackman
Wildlife Killing Contests are Unethical
Colin Todhunter
Bayer Shareholders: Put Health and Nature First and Stop Funding This Company!
Andrés Castro
Looking Normal in Kew Gardens
October 15, 2019
Victor Grossman
The Berlin Wall, Thirty Years Later
Raouf Halaby
Kurdish Massacres: One of Britain’s Many Original Sins
Robert Fisk
Trump and Erdogan have Much in Common – and the Kurds will be the Tragic Victims of Their Idiocy
Ron Jacobs
Betrayal in the Levant
Wilma Salgado
Ecuador: Lenin Moreno’s Government Sacrifices the Poor to Satisfy the IMF
Ralph Nader
The Congress Has to Draw the Line
William A. Cohn
The Don Fought the Law…
John W. Whitehead
One Man Against the Monster: John Lennon vs. the Deep State
Lara Merling – Leo Baunach
Sovereign Debt Restructuring: Not Falling Prey to Vultures
Norman Solomon
The More Joe Biden Stumbles, the More Corporate Democrats Freak Out
Jim Britell
The Problem With Partnerships and Roundtables
Howard Lisnoff
More Incitement to Violence by Trump’s Fellow Travelers
Binoy Kampmark
University Woes: the Managerial Class Gets Uppity
Joe Emersberger
Media Smears, Political Persecution Set the Stage for Austerity and the Backlash Against It in Ecuador
Thomas Mountain
Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed Wins Nobel Peace Prize, But It Takes Two to Make Peace
Wim Laven
Citizens Must Remove Trump From Office
October 14, 2019
Ann Robertson - Bill Leumer
Class Struggle is Still the Issue
Mike Miller
Global Climate Strike: From Protest To Power?
Patrick Cockburn
As Turkey Prepares to Slice Through Syria, the US has Cleared a New Breeding Ground for Isis
John Feffer
Trump’s Undeclared State of Emergency
Dean Baker
The Economics and Politics of Financial Transactions Taxes and Wealth Taxes
Jonah Raskin
What Evil Empire?
Nino Pagliccia
The Apotheosis of Emperors
Evaggelos Vallianatos
A Passion for Writing
Basav Sen
The Oil Despots
Brett Wilkins
‘No Friend But the Mountains’: A History of US Betrayal of the Kurds
John Kendall Hawkins
Assange: Enema of the State
Scott Owen
Truth, Justice and Life
Thomas Knapp
“The Grid” is the Problem, Not the Solution
Rob Kall
Republicans Are Going to Remove Trump Soon
Cesar Chelala
Lebanon, Dreamland
Weekend Edition
October 11, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Becky Grant
CounterPunch in Peril?
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail